Keisha Thompson‘s debut production as CEO of Contact calls for an end to hair discrimination with a new show with Contact Young Company celebrating all hair types and supporting the Halo Campaign. She talks to Carmel Thomason about the inspiration behind her latest work and how you too can get involved.
Why did you choose to create a show about Black hair for your first show as CEO?
Keisha: “I knew I wanted to work with Contact Young Company as soon as possible. I thought about an idea that excited me and felt tangible. Before joining Contact, I had been working with The World Reimagined and doing a lot of work with schools about racial justice. I was made aware of the Halo Code and how it was set up by a group of young women in London. Something in my head clicked. I could showcase the campaign and celebrate a group of young women demonstrating leadership. I knew I could make it fun, accessible and line it up with key calendar dates like World Afro Day in September and Black History Month, so it all fell into place from there”.
What is the story?
Keisha: “The story is about a young black girl who is excluded from school and seeks solace in her local hairdresser. We are drawn into her world via music video day dreams and TikTok adverts as we unpack what this young person is facing as she tries to find confidence in her image and her voice. It’s loud. It’s fun. It’s hairy. What more could you want?”
Has anything surprised you while directing it?
Keisha: “I’m always surprised. I love listening to groups of people and writing from there. The company is a dream. Every time we have a session, they come out with things that make me change the story or the script. I guess I’m surprised by how easy it feels working with them or getting them on board with my weird ideas”.
Why do you think it is important for young people to see arts as an agent of social change?
Keisha: “The future is full of unknowns and possibilities. The best thing that you do to navigate this is to be equip with a sense of imagination and agency. Engaging with the arts is the perfect way to cultivate those skills. You learn how to digest material and put it back out to communicate with a variety of people. You learn how to turn your opinions and ideas into tangible things that go out into the world to create joy, empathy and learning. We know that there are loads of issues out in the world. We want to change them. We can. And we can do it with flair”.
What do you hope people will take from the show?
Keisha: “I want people to have a good time. I want them to celebrate all the various types of hair that exist in the world. Hair is such a key part of our identities. It can lead us to talk about things that are really personal and sometimes harmful. Hopefully this show will give people a chance to reflect on their own hair journeys and find joy in that. I want them to feel inspired by the wonderful efforts of the team behind the Halo Code. Who knows, maybe they’ll get their organisation signed up”.
How can people find out more about Contact Young Company get involved?
Keisha: “On our website. As a part of our 50 Year Anniversary programme, we’re doing some unusual things with the company so we’re not doing the normal open audition process until Autumn 2023. But please keep an eye out. Get yourself signed up to our newsletter. We’ll keep you in the loop”.